Wilbur Mayhew Mission December 11, 1942

Ferry mission 11 December 1942

We returned to Cairo at night at a much higher altitude (above 10,000 feet). The next time we took Air Marshal Tedder and General Brereton to Algiers ( 11 December 1942) we flew a B-24D deep into the Sahara, south of all German activity.

This event was not mentioned in the autobiographies of either Air Marshal Tedder ("With Prejudice" ) or General Brereton ( "The Brereton Diaries" ), so I doubt this event has ever been recorded. In fact, they may never have known it happened. They were busy talking in the interior of the plane, and nothing happened on the flight.


We flew a few more missions before 9 December 1942, when we learned that we were taking General Brereton and Air Chief Marshal Tedder back to Algiers. We also had Air Commodore Brown, Wing Commander Lord Forbes and two other RAF. officers as well as Lieutenant Colonel Louis Hobbs ( General Brereton's aide ). This time we took them in our B- 24, the "Pink Lady". We took off again about midnight, refueled at Tobruk, Libya, about 4:00 AM. (0400), and sun-up found us deep in the Sahara Desert, skirting the German positions this time. The trip to Algiers was uneventful. We arrived in Algiers about noon.

No one was supposed to remain on the airfield at night except the posted guards. However, we could not get enough transportation, so all the enlisted men stayed with the plane. About 1 :00 A.M. ( 0100) the air raid alarm at the airbase sounded, so we all climbed out of the plane and waited for "Jerry" to arrive. No one came for about an hour, so we went back to sleep. About half an hour later we were awakened by bomb explosions, but "Jerry" was hitting a little town about five miles away. We were in little danger, so we went back to sleep. We never knew whether they missed the airfield in the dark, or if they actually meant to bomb the town.

On the evening of 12 December 1942 about 5:00 P.M. ( 1700) General Brereton came out to the plane, ready to take off. Our navigator, Captain Daigle, told him the weather was very bad over Tunisia ( a B-26 Marauder iced up and spun in that afternoon on our route), but the General insisted we head for Cairo, so off we went about 6:30 P.M. (1830).

About two hours after sundown we hit the storm. All went well until we started to ice up. Suddenly the plane stalled and started into a spin. However, Major Fennell was able to bring the plane out of it. We eventually cleared the storm without any further difficulty. The Germans were a little better with their anti-aircraft fire that night as we crossed the Tunisian coast at Gabes, but they still did not hit us. We flew along smoothly for about four hours, when our navigator discovered we were lost. There are no lights to guide by out over the Sahara Desert and naturally there are none in the Mediterranean Sea, so we could not tell whether we were over land or water. It is quite a lonely feeling to be lost in the air, with no idea whatever of what lies beneath. We continued on as best we could while the navigator tried to get our position. The clouds were just thick enough that he could not get a fix on a star, so we just flew on, hoping the sky would clear enough to let him get our position. After what seemed years, the airfield at the edge of Cairo (Heliopolis ) was located, and we made an uneventful landing. That was another night we all kissed the ground when we climbed out of the plane. However, there was still enough gas in the tanks to fly for another hour or two when we landed. The next day we returned to Abu Sueir and continued as before.